23 November, 2021

IDES Is Sensitive to Potential for Danger in Haiti

by | 19 October, 2021 | 0 comments

By Jim Nieman

The 17 missionaries affiliated with Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries who were kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend highlight the dangers of serving in that politically unstable, severely impoverished nation, according to the head of a Christian church disaster relief agency.

“It is heartbreaking to hear about situations like these 17 missionaries being kidnapped,” David Stine, executive director of IDES (International Disaster Emergency Service), said after being contacted by Christian Standard. “Our thoughts and prayers go out for those taken hostage and their families” . . . and also to their kidnappers (“that God would make an incredible change in their hearts”).

The powerful 400 Mawozo gang has reportedly asked for $1 million each—$17 million in total—for release of the missionaries.

“There is a balance of risk and risk aversion that we regularly assess [at IDES]. Safety is never promised,” Stine said. “It is truly heartbreaking and something that could happen to any organization trying to make a difference.”

Alas, he said, “When we, as humans and as Christians, seek to have no risk, we simply won’t do anything. So, instead, we turn to risk assessment and risk management.”

A SCARY TRIP TO THE AIRPORT
On Tuesday, Stine said he had just gotten off the phone with one of IDES’s Haiti partners who left that country the same day the kidnappings occurred.

“In fact, she was on the same road where the kidnapping happened”—not far from Port-au-Prince—“but her driver changed course [at the] last minute and took some rugged back roads to get her to the airport. Her story of getting to the airport reads like a script from a movie,” Stine said. “We were in communication with her and making plans to evacuate her if her commercial flight was canceled a second time.

“This experienced missionary to Haiti shared just how scared she was and that she had never seen things this bad before. Her local church here in Indiana had a prayer time on Sunday for the entire country of Haiti. She told me how personally encouraging this was to her. Haiti is still her family’s home [but] it is just not safe enough for them to be there right now.

“The needs in Haiti right now are especially great and the dangers are real,” Stine said. “We continue to pray for our partners, for those who are suffering, for the country as a whole, and right now we lift up prayers for the safety of those 17 hostages.”

BALANCING WISDOM AND RISK
The disaster agency’s relief model relies on partnerships in Haiti and other countries where it serves.

IDES has sent team members to visit projects in an African nation beset by a civil war. After an assessment and discussions with local partners, the risk in going there was determined to be acceptable.

Said Stine, “We have partners working in closed and persecuted countries all around the world who make these determinations on a daily basis.” They continually assess the risk, and they “use wisdom to balance that risk.” But it’s not a perfect science.

In Haiti, an Aug. 14 earthquake damaged and destroyed thousands of buildings, and shortly thereafter a tropical storm caused even more problems.

For an Aug. 31 article, Stine told Christian Standard, “We have decided the current unrest makes it too dangerous to send teams from the U.S. [to Haiti] at the moment.” In light of this past weekend’s kidnapping of missionaries, we reached out to Stine again to discuss those safety concerns in greater depth.

During project planning in Haiti shortly after the natural disasters, Stine said on Tuesday, IDES’s partners offered the assessment that “Americans shouldn’t be here right now.” Stine is grateful for that blunt recommendation, especially in light of what happened over the weekend.

“Our partners on the ground . . . are very experienced at leading volunteers,” Stine said. Those partners help determine “the most effective aid and the process for providing that aid.”

In addition to sending food almost immediately after the recent earthquake and tropical storm, IDES has been sending funds to help with rebuilding efforts. Skilled local workers are being paid to do the work.

Mission organizations must constantly make judgment calls, Stine said, but ultimately there is always some risk involved.

That said, “We thank God for our partners’ wisdom to recommend not sending foreign relief teams [to Haiti] at this time.”

Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.

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